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james laube's wine flights

Wine Shopping in New York

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 11, 2006 9:35am ET

I’m back on home turf again, having arrived in New York over the weekend.

For exercise on Sunday, before joining Tom and Sara Matthews for dinner, I walked to a few wine shops near my hotel at East 34th Street and 3rd Avenue.

Since I cover California wines, I’m always curious about what wines and what options readers outside the Golden State have at their disposal.

I also like to see all the new or old brands I’ve never heard of--irrespective of where they’re from, and there are too many to process.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that in many wine shops east of California, the vintages run one to two years behind the wines I’m reviewing.

That’s not always a bad thing, as I’ll explain in a moment.

I’ve also noticed plenty of older vintages. By that I mean I saw some excellent wines from the 1999 vintage, such as Rockland Napa Valley Petite Sirah, a wine that’s next to impossible to find in California. Yet there it was, standing up on a wine shelf at Windsor Court Wine Shop on 3rd.

I also saw plenty of 2000 vintage reds, such as Cabernet and Zinfandel. These wines are already drinking well, and in a few days you’ll get our new issue, which focuses on Cabernet, and the main vintage I wrote about was 2003.

Since I’ve been working on a story about Pinot Noir, I wanted to see what choices existed. Much to my surprise, I found a few bottles of the 2004 Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir Edna Valley Chamisal Vineyards (93 points) for $30.

I reviewed this wine earlier this year and it is a sensational buy. But it seemingly vanished from the California wine scene months ago.

But there it was at Windsor. I bought a bottle--despite concerns that the wine shop was too warm, at 70 degrees Fahrenheit--and it was delicious.

One of those needle in a haystack finds?

Or are people just missing out on the goodies that are available for the taking?

Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  October 11, 2006 4:01pm ET
There are just WAY too many wine shops in new york and even more variety to choose from. Walking into most wine shops and I can probably find a slew of 90+ wines for under 30$. Me and a few friends help ourselves out by letting each other know when something's mispriced, like certain 03 bordeauxs that sell for 30$/bottle when they should be 75$. But otherwise one can go broke buying all the "steals" in new york, and once I do buy them, where can I find a place in New York to drink them!!! =) Welcome to NY, James and hope the city treats you well!
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 11, 2006 4:37pm ET
You're right, Jeffrey. Way too many shops. I often hear that people can't find good wines, such as the Pinot from Domaine Alfred, yet it's here and at a very good price. City has treated me very well...
George Pallas
Arcadia, Ca —  October 11, 2006 5:39pm ET
The Chamisal and the Califa Pinot's vanished fast in California after your review. I believe the Winery even oversold the Califa. I agree totally the Chamisal is delicious, and I would put it in the Top 30 for WOTY. I Still have like 10 bottles of it left.
Greg Chitty
Houston Tx —  October 11, 2006 8:45pm ET
I think in big stores you can find the needles and also you find some "in-store stashing". Two incidents I remember recently at large liquor stores in Houston.... 3 bottles of '99 Etude stashed out of sight behind a bunch of 2003 Avalon Cab?? & a '98 Vieux Telegraph CdP behind a section of Guigal '03 Cotes du Rhone. In the case of the Etude, the store didn't even have it in their inventory!! I am convinced the Etude was hidden by someone coming back to get it later, and eventually the liquor store wrote it off as a loss.....Hooray for big store inefficiency!!
Brett Allen
Nashville, Tn —  October 11, 2006 11:33pm ET
These 3 treasures, Shafer Hillside Select 2002, were not hidden, but being used as a "doorstop" into their "backroom."I just could not pass up telling this story, nor could I pass up buying these 3 orphans!I can really enjoy purchasing "doorstops" with no price tags!Brett
William Newell
Buffalo, NY —  October 12, 2006 9:38am ET
I tried to find the Windsor Court Wine Shop website and could not. But for those of us who don't live in NYC, there are many excellent online shops, including Sherry-Lehman, Zachy's, Grapes The Wine Co., and others. They often have hard-to-find wines, frequently at sale prices. Sherry-Lehman offers free shipping within NYS for orders over $125.00. In addition, there is the wineaccess.com website that lets you search for any wine available from retailers who can ship to whichever state the buyer lives.
Shawn Kuhmann
Astoria, NY —  October 13, 2006 1:00am ET
I think you started a run on the Domaine Alfred at Windsor! The problem with wine shopping in NYC is that the good stuff is spread out over so many shops -- I can't possibly hit them all. After your blog, I went to Windsor because I am routinely within two blocks anyway. I picked up two bottles of the Domaine Alfred because it was just what I was looking for to serve with duck and mushroom pasta this weekend, but I would never have had any idea that they had it -- or that the shop was even there -- without your blog. They told me at the register that they had been selling the stuff all day because of you, I took two of the last three that were on the floor. The only problem with this (is it really a problem?) is that I saw a few other bottles that I will go back for as soon as I think I can justify the expense. As Jeffrey points out, there are so many wine shops in the city, with so many bottles "one can go broke buying all the "steals" in new york".
Shawn Kuhmann
Astoria, NY —  October 13, 2006 1:17am ET
PS: I assume NYC folks already know this -- some of the best wine deals in NYC are often from PJ Wine (I have no connection other than keeping them in business with my patronage). They have online ordering; free delivery in Manhattan; and a good selection from Spain (their specialty), Australia, and California. Along with a couple of other big stores (K&D for one), their service often leads me to forget to go into the little shops that (like Windsor) are small and cramped but usually have something nice hidden away.
Kirk R. Grant
Ellsworth, ME —  October 14, 2006 12:23am ET
James, I have traveled all over the states this year. Whenever I go I always look for hidden values. There were still some of both Domaine Alfreds in Atlanta only two months ago. Larger cities away from Cali tend to have some great hidden treasures. However I think the better value came in the Califa. The Chamisal wasn't a second day survivor where the Califa was. I'd like to think that the ability to stay a second day with your wines is another consideration when you do the top 100.
Mike Vessa
East Williston,NY —  October 24, 2006 6:12am ET
Jim, The Calif. cabernet issue of WS is always a major treat for me come the fall. This year's reviews obviously reflected scores that readers are not accustomed to seeing associated with their favorite wines. That aside, I was very confused about your rating for the Carter Cab Beckstoffer To-Kalon; the article at p.138 gives a 95 point rating to the '03, but the tasting report at p.224 gives the 95 point rating to the'02 Carter Cab Beckstoffer To-Kalon. I believe the full story re: the year in review also mentions the '02. What's the story?? PS I just bought a bunch of the '03!!! MPV

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